Avoiding Food Temptation
If we understand the causes of food temptation, we are half way from conquering it. The other half will only be devoted to enjoying ourselves: socializing, exercising, working, traveling, etc., taking pleasure in other avenues of life that keep us busy and happy, away from food.
Understanding one's enemy, in advance, makes the moment of confrontation/temptation much easier afterwards, at the battlefield, if one needs to fight at all. We will be prepared and not taken off-guard.
There are many self-control techniques to apply before or during eating, that both dieticians and food addicts complicate (the former to make their living, the latter to keep the status quo). Food temptation is like a predator we must face sometimes. We may fight or flight, stiffen up or run away. Or we play dead, ignoring the "urge" until it goes away. Still, such are only short-term solutions. For the longer ones, where temptations are many, diverse and longer, there is only one simple strategy: "To fight a bad habit or keep one from developing, you need to replace pleasure with pleasure, and craving with craving." As with all forms of addiction, the best way to change old habits is to make new ones.
When attacked by food cravings, temporarily seek shelter in, or escape to, nature, art, music, work, sex ... or people's company. If one is not available, move on to the other, because there are always others. Just MOVE, mentally or physically, to keep it off your head: that's what matters. It's the very addiction chemistry that mindlessly binds you to a certain pleasure, deeply suffering when you try to break off its bond, to enjoy another pleasure. So, keep going like a butterfly that doesn't rest on one flower: why eat off one dish on your table, or try one taste only when life is an open buffet? (Just a harmless food metaphor!) Simply put, keep a distance from all things you love, to enjoy what you love.
The sophisticated weapons our lower brain uses to enslave us to food are many:
1. A Chemical Urge
Food is a handy pill to boost one's endorphins, that are naturally low in some people, and in all of us when we are stressed, depressed or bored. Because of this innocent pleasure-seeking motive, and until we transform into different life forms in the faraway future (free from dependence on food for survival and our constant exposure to it), I'm afraid to say, many will continue their slavery to Master Food:
Most people eat way much more than they need, at any hour of the day; for pleasure's sake, satisfying an illusive "dopaminergic" chemical urge, not a real physical need; alone or with others; when they are happy, to maximize their excitement, and when they are sad, to fight off stress and depression. They mark their holidays, birthdays, weddings, meetings, even funerals, and virtually every occasion, special or not, with special food, with special taste, color and texture.
2. Social Temptation
People will eat also for the pleasure of sharing food, although every human has different body needs from the other's. For instance, parents will share the same meal with their beloved children – as a good old family tradition – even when their bodies burn third of what their children's burn in food calories, with much slower metabolism and less tissue-development.
3. Psychological Temptation
They can't change those life-long habits. They can't give up the pleasure of memories (such amazing catalyst of happiness we flavor other pleasures with; one we madly cling to as we get old). We want to do everything the same way we had done it all our life before, with our dear parents, with our old time friends, and with every person we had chanced upon along the journey of life.
Cooking and food preparation are fun to many people, especially those who are alone and have free time. Culinary knowledge becomes even a must for anyone who really wants to eat what they alone love, or what their body alone needs. Yet cooking increases exposure to food temptation; even worse, the complex art of cooking becomes an obsession. Its knowledge keeps one's mind always occupied with food: our head becomes loaded with dishes and recipes, and every inch of our brain starts looking, smelling and tasting, heaven forbid, like food. We become walking, talking pudding heads. (If you are not there yet, look around you and you will see many such heads. You don't want to end up being one of those men and women we see popping up in every occasion we meet or on every TV show we watch, chatting insatiably about food.) Life is short, and there is more to it than eating and cooking. There are other items on our "checkout" list.
It's sadly ironic to see many obese people choose to be professional cooks, only because other people expect them to be so based on their looks, wrongly, consciously or not, relating their overweight to overeating. Those who chose such career need to be always on alert, detaching themselves from whatever they are cooking and whomever they are cooking for, however difficult that is, by being constantly vigilant not to succumb to food temptation, else they lower their already-low life-expectancy.
5. Spatial Temptation
Sometimes, you may not be addicted to eating or even interested in cooking, yet you still have to face a different geographical challenge. Living, working or passing by restaurants, cafeterias or just others' kitchens can be challenging to those wanting to escape food temptation; whereas for the rest of us, who may be neither hungry nor teased by food smell, such nasal intrusion only causes nausea and disturbance.
6. Nature and Outdoors
Some people prefer eating outdoors because of an obligation they have no choice over, a bad habit they developed, a premeditation to commit the act of outdoor eating, or simply succumbing to a temptation they encountered outside that they were not prepared for.
When we enter a restaurant we have no longer control over what will happen next! We put our fate on a silver platter and hand it over to those in charge of the place, hoping that they will care. But why should they? They have tens or hundreds of others like you to wait on; they know nothing about each one's health conditions, family history, food preferences, nutrient deficiencies, allergy, etc. And above all, there is no or minimal censorship over what they serve: once you fall ill, it's no one's fault but you. You cannot even choose the company of other customers or complain about them; you chose to share in public what is in fact so personal and private: your health, let alone your taste. You chose to share the same air in their lungs, the seats and tables where they sat, the conversations forced on your ears, the smell of food you never ordered. Forget about dental care or proper hygiene before or after eating, if such things matter. It's strange that after all this, you have to pay more of your hard-earned money in the end. You pay for taking your own risk. Neuroscientists are right then when they say, "It's naturally thrilling to take risk." Enjoy.
7. Media and Food Industry
Anyone can easily fall prey to the seductive techniques restaurant chains and food companies use, not only tickling one's sense of smell, sight and taste, but also one's culture, class, gender, race ... They dictate to the public what food is masculine, feminine, classy or in vogue, that every young man or woman should have; what is uniquely patriotic that all loyal citizens must eat; what is a good grandma's dish that is a tradition to cherish, a memory of a past wise old people can't do without, or just a new irresistible taste "you must try before you die." It's a country-wide scheme everyone is fooled into, an organized crime committed against our physical and mental health that goes without punishment, because of the ignorance, and complicity of the victim with the culprit.